This post was published in Vzglyad. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.
MOSCOW, (BM) – Kyiv has agreed with Ankara on the release of Turkish Bayraktar on the territory of Ukraine. It is these drones that are considered the main winners of the recent Karabakh war. The Kyiv generals believe that with their help might repeating the Karabakh blitzkrieg in the Donbas. But what will Ukraine give Turkey in return?
The Armed Forces of Ukraine need Turkish drones, and Kyiv is ready to work out a variant of their joint production with technology transfer. The news was announced on Friday by the Minister of Defense of Ukraine Andriy Taran. “Modern Turkish combat drones have the features that we need,” he said, adding that “there are plans to move to joint production of UAVs with Turkey.” “And here we are not just talking about the creation of a company, but about the transfer of technologies. As you know, Ukraine has technologies that can share with Turkish firms,” the TASS minister was quoted as saying.
On Monday, Taran signed an agreement with Turkish companies to produce of attack drones for the Ukrainian army’s needs. The signing took place within the framework of the visit to Kyiv of the Turkish delegation headed by the head of the secretariat of the republic’s defense industry Ismail Demir. Earlier, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Colonel-General Ruslan Khomchak, promised that in 2021 Kyiv would purchase five more Turkish Bayraktar TB2.
Most likely, Turkey is interested in Ukraine as an executor of the technological chain for the production of unmanned aerial vehicles, believes the editor-in-chief of the magazine “Arsenal of the Fatherland” Alexey Leonkov. “Bayraktars will be assembled from components -“screwdriver assembly” with the help of cheap labor. The fact that Ukraine’s military industry operates at the expense of American loans, that is, Ankara will shift part of the costs of assembling its drones to America, will add to the cheapness of such an assembly,” the expert told Vzglyad newspaper.
Perhaps Ankara’s interest in Ukrainian military production was also fueled by the threat of Western sanctions. The United States has just introduced the long-promised sanctions, banning the export of goods for the needs of the Turkish defense industry, as well as freezing the assets of Turkish defense companies, including Ismail Demir himself, Leonkov said.
However, other experts believe that the US sanctions were not related to the conclusion of the deal with Kyiv. “Ankara is pursuing a purely commercial interest. It has already gained access to the famous Motor Sich plant engines and is now ready to transfer its technologies to Ukraine, but not the most relevant ones. After all, this does not threaten it with big losses: Baykar Makina, which produces drones, in the meantime, is already creating vehicles of a completely different level,” explained Andrey Frolov, editor-in-chief of the Export Arms magazine.
“A year ago, Kyiv has already acquired six Turkish Bayraktars and expects to gradually increase its number to 50 pieces. In this regard, Minister Taran started talking that it would be pleasant to produce such devices on Ukraine’s territory. There is no sensation in this, but there is just a stream of praise to our Turkish friends, a desire to please them,” the military expert believes.
As Vzglyad newspaper noted, one of Karabakh’s recent war’s significant discoveries was the massive attacks of the Turkish attack drones Bayraktar TB2 manufactured by the firm Baykar Makina. The drone, which helped Azerbaijan defeat Armenia, is named after the company’s owners. Moreover, for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, this is almost a family business. The current head of the company, Selcuk Bayraktar, is his son-in-law.
As for Ukraine, the arms giant has been successfully cooperating with it for a long time. In 2018, Baykar Makina presented the first sample of the Akinci drone – joint development of Turkish and Ukrainian engineers. This device is equipping with an engine manufactured at the Ivchenko-Progress plant in Zaporozhye – the engine is 3.5 times more powerful than the engine of the base Bayraktar. Combat drone “Akyndzhi” can rise to 12 thousand meters, carry up to 900 kg of weapons on external suspensions, and 450 kilograms in the internal fuselage compartments. The drone is armed with guided missiles and bombs and is also equipping with electronic reconnaissance and warfare systems.
Last year Kyiv purchased and tested Bayraktar TV2 devices. According to unofficial data, the amount of this contract was $ 69 million. The drones purchased by Ukraine are equipped, in particular, with Turkish-made high-precision MAM-L bombs. Azerbaijan used these bombs with a laser guidance system in the recent battles in Karabakh. The MAM-L warhead is equipping with charges of both thermobaric and fragmentation types. It can be used to destroy both heavy equipment and infrastructure and large concentrations of enemy personnel.
As a result of the contract last year, the Armed Forces of Ukraine received about a dozen Bayraktar TB2 equipped with MAM-L, and MAM-S class ammunition Ministry reported. In the same year, the Ukrainian military trained by Turkish instructors used these UAVs on maneuvers, and the terrain was as close as possible to the relief of Donbas.
Close cooperation between Ankara and Kyiv in terms of combat uncrewed aircraft continued in the past year. In January, the Ivchenko-Progress mentioned above signed a contract with Baykar Makina to supply turboprop and turbojet engines for UAVs and cruise missiles. In August, there were reports that Kyiv had offered Ankara to buy a 50% stake in another Zaporozhye enterprise – Motor Sich, a leading manufacturer of aircraft engines since Soviet times. This project, however, did not materialize.
The Ukrainian portal Defense Express noted that the Turkish side refused to buy Motor Sich shares and decided to replace the UAV’s Ukrainian engines with its counterparts. Baykar Makina explained that the UAVs need piston engines of this class, which Motor Sich, alas, does not produce. But at the same time, Baykar Makina reassured the Kyiv partners – the decision does not mean the curtailment of cooperation with the Ukrainian military-industrial complex.
Then, at the end of October, the Ukrainian Minister for Strategic Industries Oleg Urusky said that the Turks were looking for a place in Ukraine for the joint production of drones. According to Urusky, Ankara will provide investments, while Ukraine only needs a platform.
Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of Ukraine continued to test the purchased drones in conditions close to combat. At the end of November, Bayraktars and the American anti-tank missiles FGM-148 Javelin were tested in the Nikolaev region, at the Shirokiy Lan training ground, reported Ukraine.ru. According to the exercise scenario, the Ukrainian military operated in urban conditions against electronic warfare by the enemy. At the end of November, the Armed Forces of Ukraine simulated the Bayraktar attack on Crimea.
Ukraine has been producing drones for a long time, but they cannot compete with the same Turkish ones in terms of their qualities, some experts note. Own drones have long been in service with the Armed Forces of Ukraine on contact in Donbas. According to the People’s Militia of the LPR, Ukrainian drones are bombing civilian infrastructure. UAVs also conduct aerial reconnaissance, adjust the fire of Ukrainian mortar workers. As noted by “Komsomolskaya Pravda,” the Donbas republics fear whether the rapid growth of the arsenal of unmanned aircraft means that Kyiv is preparing a blitzkrieg modeled on the Karabakh operation.
“Kyiv declares its commitment to a peaceful settlement. The question arises: why then an emerging country with a hole in the budget buys Bayraktars? Do they have other hotspots where they can apply them? No, they are buying Bayraktars for use in Donbas,” said Rodion Miroshnik, an advisor to the LPR head, the republic’s representative at the Minsk talks, to Vzglyad.
The statements of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Kyiv’s real actions are fundamentally at odds, the source said. “With the declared desire for peace, we must accumulate money to restore Donbas. And to throw all our strength into a political and diplomatic settlement, agree on a coexistence model and generally remove the issue of security. These actions are not happening,” the LPR representative complained. “Ukraine takes huge loans, buys Bayraktars, orders some warships in Great Britain, and the like. Consequently, the task is military action using unmanned aircraft in this case.”
However, Donbas will have something to respond to the Bayraktar attacks, says Miroshnik. “In May 2014, Ukraine began to use aviation for air raids on Lugansk, Donetsk, Sukhodolsk. Then they smashed residential areas with their aircraft. But by August, all aviation in Ukraine was over. Therefore, now to say that we will be completely unarmed in front of a dozen Bayraktars is naive,” the LPR representative summed up.
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